Our blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney, and his partner Hermes Mallea, an architect, are principals in the M (Group).
Okay — four years ago I wrote about our holiday decorating experiences at The New York Public Library and I gave some pithy (probably useless) advice.
It is way too long for me to re-read. I’m like a movie actor – after the role is completed, I only see the film once: at the premier.
I figure it’s about time for a new holiday diatribe.
So – this year I had a Holiday Challenge. To wreath the iconic lions in front of The New York Public Library. Now, Patience and Fortitude wore wreaths for decades. They were Manhattan holiday icons. Maybe the
Manhattan holiday icon. But the wreaths, with lots of metal substructure, were damaging the soft pale pink Tennessee marble so over a decade ago the Library stopped using them.
I lobbied hard (whined and keened) for the return of the wreaths. I wasn’t alone; lots of other people wanted them. But no, Facilities, in charge of making sure our treasured landmark stays standing and looking good, would not allow them. And who can argue with potentially staining Patience and Fortitude? Not me.
Last year, Facilities came up with a list of approved materials – with the main caveat being No Ferrous Materials. Library President Tony Marx wanted the wreaths — everyone wanted the wreaths. So the games began. We went round and round (and round) with fabricators, manufacturers, designers. All that fake holiday stuff is crammed with ferrous wires. All of it.
After hours and hours of meetings and emails, the Library Special Events Christmas Elf, Bryant (my kinda elf – 6’6" and VGL), found the right designer. We shopped the flower market, finally found the only three greens with no wires and we approved on site/sight. Two 15’ circumferences of plastic boxwood and pine sewn together with plastic fishing wire and all held together with thousands of zip ties. Add East Texas Pine Cones — see that first blog — and a red ribbon and Bob’s your uncle.
Last Sunday afternoon, I met Carlos Rivas, who created the wreaths, and his crew on the steps of the Library and they were installed. Easy on/Easy off — they simply latch under the chin. Lightweight and ‘flow through’ for snow and rain. I didn’t relish installing these bubbas in the Cold Light of Day. Opinions from the Pedestrian Peanut Gallery would not be appreciated. Never let the client (in this case the People of New York) see the process, just the final product.
But I was wrong. Even the old hippie who sat directly below Fortitude throughout the installation, smokin’ a blunt, gave us the Thumbs Up. I got asked a lot of questions (“Where is Saks Fifth Avenue?") but no one piped up re the wreaths.
They were up and running for the annual Holiday Open House, when the building is opened to 6,000 supporters for a grand party.
And the New York Times has piped in.
If you are in the ‘hood, check out Astor Hall and go up to the McGraw Rotunda to see a Lenox Case with Charles Dickens’ personal annotated copy of A Christmas Carol
and a daguerreotype of Tiny Tim— the only known image of the book’s hero.
The Lions’ early saga was fraught with bad press and criticism (everyone’s a critic, right?). Too benign. Too domesticated.
I guess history has proven the critics wrong. They were the work of the great animalier, Edward Clark Potter, carved by the Piccirilli Brothers out of pink Tennessee marble Mayor Fiorello La Guardia gave them the nicknames Patience (south) and Fortitude (north) during the Great Depression.